Now that Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Dodgers, we can turn our attention to potential new owners for the team.
The top contender is probably Dennis J. Gilbert. He's got a great story. He's a local guy, went to Gardena High School and L.A. City College. He played minor league baseball, then became a top sports agent. He lives in Calabasas, and he has close ties to Commissioner Bud Selig. What's not to like?
Well, there is the small matter of how he made his money.
Gilbert is the founder and senior partner at Gilbert-Krupin LLC, a Beverly Hills insurance firm that specializes in “wealth transfer planning” for “high net-worth individuals.” Translated into English, that means that Gilbert makes money by helping rich people avoid paying their estate taxes.
Frank McCourt was raked over the coals for not paying taxes for five years, while reaping more than $100 million from the Dodgers. Well, Gilbert is the kind of guy who shows people like McCourt how to do that.
Now, the estate tax is a controversial issue. Some folks call it the “death tax,” and believe it's the worst form of redistributive taxation. But whether you support the estate tax or oppose it, you've got to feel a little twinge of uneasiness with Gilbert's line of work.
If you support it, you think rich people should actually pay it. But even if you oppose it, it's got to be a little troubling that a guy like Gilbert can get filthy rich by exploiting loopholes in the tax code. If the estate tax were zero, Gilbert would be out of work.
Obviously there's nothing illegal about this — just as, apparently, there was nothing illegal about McCourt avoiding taxes for so many years. But is it too much to ask for the new Dodger owner to have made his money doing something that's actually socially useful?